One of the hardest parts about treating psychiatric illness is deciding which drug to use. Hopefully most doctors are not too swayed by the Paxil pens or Prozac magnets that end up in their offices (though that's a great way to get those names to the top of the recall list), but often, no matter what you start with, psychiatric prescribing tends to go through several iterations. Start with a drug, it doesn't work or has bad side effects. Start with another one. Increase the dose, decrease the dose, and so forth and so on, hoping the whole time for one dose or one drug that will produce the best effect with the least side effects.
A lot of research goes in to this, too. Surveys on what drugs work for which people. Which symptoms get better results from which drugs. While a lot of this is funded by drug companies, much of it isn't. And the final goal is always the same, finding the drug that will do the best (and thus, sell the best) in the most people for a particular symptom.
But how do you determine which patients are being helped by a drug, and in which ways? You can run lots of surveys and ask, but people's reports may vary, and their rating of their own symptoms is highly subjective. Right now, it's all we have to go on. But it'd be AWFULLY nice if we could evaluate, say, a patient's brain scan, a know from the activity in there how they would respond to a particular. And this paper, with that in mind, is looking at taking a step in that direction.
Brühl, Jäncke, and Herwig. "Differential modulation of emotion processing brain regions by noradrenergic and serotonergic antidepressants" Psychopharmacology, 2011.
Full disclosure: the authors were funded by a national grant from Switzerland. Sci is funded by nothing, but motivated by chocolate cupcakes and coffee.
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